'SMILF' is an honest, witty portrait of motherhood

NOSELL

Showtime

 

Monday, November 13, 2017 - 1:55pm

You wouldn’t expect a TV show about a single mother to start off with the song “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by The Ying Yang Twins, but this one did. This striking juxtaposition between a wholesome concept and something so far from it set the scene perfectly for the gritty-natured, but true-to-life story that was soon to unfold. “SMILF” is loosely based on the life of the writer, creator and lead actress, Frankie Shaw (“Blue Mountain State”), and her experiences as a single mom. Working as a struggling actress, Shaw decided to write a pilot, which later became an Sundance award-winning short — now picked up as this showtime series.

In the Nov. 5 series premiere, we find our protagonist, Bridgette Bird, flirting with a man during a pick-up basketball game, only to have this moment ripped away by the courtside crying of her son. This moment illuminates the episode’s running theme of Bridgette failing to find room in her life to be her own person, rather than just a mother. Despite having an amicable relationship with her baby daddy, Rafi (Miguel Gomez, “South Paw”), Bridgette is the sole parent to her son Larry Bird (Alexandra and Anna Reimer) — named in reference to the protagonist’s love for basketball, which comes to be a recurring theme in the show as well.

“SMILF” covers incredible ground in its pilot episode. We meet Bridgette’s mother, Tutu (Rosie O’Donnell, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”), with whom she has a very strained relationship; her boss Ally (Connie Britton, “American Horror Story”), a rich woman who employs her as a tutor and nanny; and Rafi’s sexy new girlfriend, an internet-famous college sportscaster affectionately known as “Hard Nipples Nelson” (Samara Weaving, “The Babysitter”).

Along with a plethora of characters, the plot highlights several issues that would plague a single mother, like needing something to eat at night with a sleeping child at home, or wondering about the elasticity of your vagina post-childbirth. Even the show title is unsheathed when Bridgette runs into an old friend at a corner shop late at night, only to return home to a text calling her a “SMILF,” which he defines as “Single Mother I’d Like to Fuck.”

Much like realist art, “SMILF” doesn’t idealize or smooth over any of the rough edges of being a single mom. Rather, it thrives on depicting the strife that comes with motherhood in painstaking detail. An implicit humor comes through from the honesty of this show; it has the kind of dark humor you feel in moments when things have gone so badly, you have no choice but to laugh at yourself.

Aside from the high-quality writing and painfully accurate depictions of real life, the show shines from the edgy-yet-loveable nature of the protagonist. She is witty, strong-willed and, best of all, imperfect. Almost immediately as a viewer you connect to Bridgette and her struggles — perhaps a side effect of being a female role written solely by women.

It's easy to think that parenthood forces you to drop your human qualities like selfishness, horniness and impulsiveness, and that you should push your flaws and needs aside for your children — “SMILF” shows how unrealistic these expectations are, and sheds light on the truth of single motherhood. Too often, mothers are presented as these polished characters who have it all together. “SMILF,” on the other hand, brings something new and real to the table, depicting Bridgette as disheveled, both in physical and mental means. Written and directed by women, this show brings a refreshing take to the TV world that Hollywood is in desperate need of: Women’s voices telling women’s stories. Tie that together with a bombshell lead and a killer soundtrack, “SMILF” presents a compelling case for “Shameless” loyalists and TV-lovers alike to give this striking new comedy the chance it deserves.